The Most Accepted Heresy on the Planet
Torn flesh, bones out of joint, in anguish, nailed to a cross, Jesus cries out the heartrending words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“My God, my God, in my darkest hour, when I am suffering, crushed by sorrow, disappointment and the horrors of this cruel world, broken by the weight of sin, here when I need You most, why have You left, deserted, abandoned, separated; why have You forsaken me?”
There is a suffocating hopeless sense of betrayal in those words. And for most of my life, I have had to navigate them as if they were true.
For most of my life, I have been taught from pulpits and platforms, by mostly well-meaning preachers and teachers, that in this heart-rending moment on the cross, a good God, the Father of Jesus, turned His back on His Son.
He looked away.
He turned His face.
It’s in our discipleship books. If you google the phrase “God turned His face” you’ll find endless teaching on the ‘forsaking’ nature of God.
My wife found it in the children’s bibles at our home church, “’Papa,’ Jesus cried frantically searching the sky. ‘Papa? Where are you? Don’t leave me!’ …nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. He turned away from His boy…”
It’s in our songs; How Deep the Fathers Love contradicts its title with the unsettling lyric “How great the pain of searing loss – the Father turns His face away.”
The gospel of salvation I grew up with – at its very foundation – was built upon a Father who looks away, a God who leaves.
And it’s a fiction.
In the moment when Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” the Father hadn’t left, forsook, or abandoned His Son. Just the opposite.
“When you all run away from me and leave me alone, I won’t be alone, because My Father is with me” (John 16:32). That is what Jesus told His disciples before going to the cross. That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? The Father wasn’t going anywhere. But if that’s true, what do we do with Jesus’ anguished cry to God on the cross?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the pivotal scripture that has been used to propagate the idea that the Father turned His face from His Son.
But did you know this cry by Jesus was an echo of His earthly forefather? Jesus was quoting the poet king David from Psalm 22. And every Jewish person knew it.
If I said, “Our Father who art in heaven,” most of you would respond with, “Hollowed be Thy name.”
If I sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer,” most of you would sing, “But I’m not the only one.”
When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” every Jewish person knew the song He was singing. They also knew that when a teacher quoted the first verse of a Psalm, as Jesus had, the teacher was drawing the listener’s attention to the entire Psalm.
As Davidic psalms go, Psalm 22 is fairly standard. Except on this day, it was powerfully prophetic. David’s words were coming to life before their very eyes.
“My God my God why have you forsaken me…” led to, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads…” (verse 6)
“My God my God why have you forsaken me…” led to, “ I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…” (14)
“My God my God why have you forsaken me…” led to, “my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…” (15)
“My God my God why have you forsaken me…” led to, “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment…” (16-18)
And then, the powerful revelation Jesus wanted us to know, why He quoted this Psalm in the first place, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” led to the epic revelation of Psalm 22:24. “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
On a cross, in His darkest hour, when He was suffering, crushed by sorrow, disappointment, and the horrors of sin, when He felt what all humanity has experienced, cut off from His awareness of His Father; when He was experiencing the devastating betrayal behind the lie that God abandons, forsakes, and leaves; Jesus quotes a scripture that reveals the power of the gospel unto salvation, GOD DOES NOT LEAVE.
The Father didn’t oscillate. He did not leave. As the old hymn writer wrote: “There is no shadow of turning with Thee.” God was in Christ, on a cross, reconciling all humanity to Himself! (see 2 Cor 5:19)
Adapted from Prone to Love.
A good Father does not leave.
And yet much of the church that we know today has been built on the disparate deception of a good Father who leaves, who forsakes, who practices distance and separation.
The very foundation of our Christian faith is the cross – it’s an epic love story that reveals God’s saving grace. And yet for many, because of how it’s been told, the cross is also a story of abandonment, a narrative in which we are taught that our Father left His beloved Son in the moment of His greatest need.
It is such a fractured and destructive telling of what a good father looks like. But this fiction is pervasive. Like yeast in the dough, this myth has infiltrated and undermined the very substance of our faith.
The teaching I so often received growing up, that still thrives today, that continues to be preached from pulpits and platforms mostly by well-intentioned ‘gatekeepers’, is the gospel of distance and separation. Its very foundation is built upon the lie that in this monumental moment on a cross, when Jesus hung between heaven and earth, His good Father abandoned Him.
I believe the singular most devastating lie humanity has ever believed is the lie of separation.
The idea that God rejects, abandons, or turns away is the most accepted heresy on the planet.
But God never left. A good Father never leaves…
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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